It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for inbound marketing. We’ve kept track of our favorite marketing campaigns in 2015 leading up to the holiday shopping season, and how these brands’ techniques are effective in standing out during our inbox’s busiest time of year.
J. CrewJ. Crew is known for its clever marketing copy, so it comes as no surprise that they played up their email marketing prowess this year for Cyber Monday. The email campaign features the photographer’s pet mouse (whose name is William), humanizing the email to the point that it stands out as “not just another Cyber Monday email” in recipients’ inbox. Anyone who has an email address (everyone) can see right through corporate email robots, especially during Black Friday/Cyber Monday season. But J. Crew manages to cut through the clutter by sending something recipients don’t expect — humor from a retail store with the help of a mouse. Another genius feature in this email is the map at the bottom, customized to the recipient’s closest store.
This list would not be complete without the inclusion of REI’s #OptOutside anti-Black Friday inbound marketing campaign. While the company has historically kept its stores closed on Thanksgiving, this year it took things a step further by closing on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The #OptOutside initiative aimed to help people connect with others outside (rather than fighting over a cashmere sweater at the mall). This campaign gained national attention for its counter intuitiveness. It also reinforced its brand identity by purveying the company culture: Nobly putting its employees and their loved ones above the bottom line.
This nobility doesn’t come without a catch, though: The marketing masters behind this campaign provide a hashtag to help it catch fire on Twitter and Facebook. #OptOutside invites everyone who wants to show their anti-consumerism on Black Friday to “Tell the world” how they spent Black Friday. In marketing-speak, this translated into free, user-generated advertising. The website keeps pace with the social media momentum, dedicating its online store and several landing pages to the #OptOutside movement. Well played, REI.
Black Friday has become almost a misnomer, since the sales tend to begin well before midnight after Thanksgiving. Amazon is no exception, and they are well-positioned to capitalize on this trend. Not only did they launch an online store specifically for Black Friday, it started rolling out deals a full week ahead of Black Friday. The company had eight days of Black Friday deals last year, too, so it had to come up with something new to get attention. Attention it got, with new deals added as often as every five minutes on Amazon’s dedicated Black Friday page, twice the rate of last year. Other new features included “Watch a Deal,” a push notification letting users know their offer went live, app-only deals and two-hour delivery on certain items through the holidays.
Amazon is fully aware that many Americans do not want to spend their day off fighting crowds, and every facet of their marketing targets this pain-point. This type of campaign can only be achieved online, as shoppers wouldn’t go to a physical store eight days in a row. And since Amazon already dominates the online shopping sphere, few can compete.
Some might say that Target’s holiday campaign was a little too successful, since the website went down for almost an hour on Cyber Monday due to high volume. But let’s look into what caused such high website traffic in the first place: digital marketing through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other apps. This year, Target spent lots of money on social media in an effort to engage customers, and it’s working. Their tactics included:
- A geofilter on Snapchat that allows U.S. users to overlay a branded graphic on top of their photos, with new holiday-themed designs introduced each day of December through Christmas.
- Facebook’s Canvas e-commerce ads pushed sales of a new Target product called Wonderpacks.
- Total Instagram takeover. Well, not quite, but Target is running Instagram ads like it’s their job using the app’s self-proclaimed high-impact ad unit Marquee.
Target’s marketing efforts are tied together by one consistent narrative: The Holiday Odyssey, an e-Book narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, released chapter by chapter throughout the holiday season, weaving in Target's marketing messages, such as free shipping. The cross-channel facets of the odyssey will spread across digital, traditional television and real-life activation throughout the season.
Retail outlets aren’t the only businesses that can profit from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For instance, Uber began its “5 Days of Giving” campaign on November 30, partnering with luxury brands like L’Occitane and Diane von Furstenberg. Drivers delivered free gifts to lucky riders in New York City who entered the code ‘TAPGETGIVE’ through the Uber app. If that’s not enough incentive to jump in an Uber, they also launched Uber (RED) to coincide with World AIDS Day on December 1st, where riders can opt to donate $5 on top of their fare to help fight AIDS around the world.
Not only did Uber generate mystery and interest by announcing every day which brand’s gifts would be available, it presented people a chance to give back through Uber (RED). This narrative balances the theme of the “giving season” by letting users have a chance to win something, while also providing an opportunity to act on giving themselves. What’s the number one goal for brands that aren’t necessary selling a product, but a service? Engagement. Uber used Black Friday/Cyber Monday as a platform to engage with customers throughout the holidays, until the end of the year.
There’s no better time to implement an inbound marketing campaign than during the holidays, as potential customers are ripe for the picking, and on high alert for new things to try and buy. Question is: Does your business know how to run an inbound marketing campaign?